How to Improve Your English Listening Skills

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How to Improve Your English Listening Skills

Listening is a vital skill in English. Simply put: If you can’t understand English how can you expect to speak it?

Luckily whether your prefer practicing your English at home alone or in a classroom, there are plenty of things that you can do to improve your listening skills. That said it is important to identify what your ideal learning environment is. Listening requires a lot of your attention so you need to ensure that you are under optimal conditions in order to practice effectively!

Once you have identified your preferred English learning method, check out the tips below to help improve your listening level!

Make Sure you Study Little and Often

This tip is great for those of you who are busy and don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to studying English every week. Believe it or not microlearning (the idea of studying just 15-20 minutes at a time) has proven to be much more effective than studying for a few hours in one sitting.

There are plenty of options for you to practice your listening for just 15-20 minutes a day. You could watch an episode of a tv series, watch the news or even listen to a podcast!

The great thing about microlearning is that it is very easy to include it into your daily routine!

Get Organised

Similar to everything in life, your efforts to improve your listening skills will be much more effective if you actually have a plan. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be obsessive with your planning but at the very least look at your daily schedule and designate a space of time for your English practice. By doing this you will be more likely to actually stick to your commitment.

Practice With Different Accents

Be sure to try practicing your different with different speakers and accents. It’s great if you find a particular speaker with a certain accent easy to understand, however in the English speaking world there is a great variety of different accents so it’s important to practice with as many of them as you can.

This is why it is important for you to practice with as many different speakers and accents as possible as only practicing with one accent can actually be detrimental in the long run as you will get overly familiar with this accent/way of speaking.

Listen to Podcasts

There are plenty of podcasts out there available for you to listen to or download for free. If you are not sure where to start with podcasting, just search ‘podcast app’ and choose one which has good ratings, there will be plenty of podcasts on each of these apps to get started with. Failing that you can also give the Teachify podcast a go! With new episodes weekly it is ideal for speakers of every level.  

When choosing a podcast it is important to choose one on a topic that you are actually interested in as this will ensure that you will stay motivated! Once you have found a podcast you like, try and listen to it every day  for a whole week. If you want you could even try and listen to each episode multiple times to really examine the vocabulary! If you are having trouble understanding anything it is absolutely fine for you to pause and rewind what you just heard.

Make a note of any keywords or phrases you hear frequently and try and listen out for them in other episodes. You could even try speaking them out loud yourself. This will help you in figuring out how to use them in the proper contexts.

Focus on the Stressed Syllables

Do you find it easier to understand non native speakers instead of native speakers? A big reason for this is the way that native speakers stress certain syllables. If you are having trouble understanding a particular speaker focus on stressed keywords and try to fill in the gaps yourself. Doing this will not only provide you with valuable practice but it will also help you with your pronunciation with certain words.

Improve Your Vocabulary

One of the main reasons why non native speakers have a hard time understanding native speakers is their lack of vocabulary. Simply put: if you aren’t familiar with the words that native’s speakers typically use it is going to make things more difficult. For this reason it is very important to ensure that you don’t neglect your vocabulary building!

Try to Avoid Using Subtitles

Although using subtitles or a transcription of whatever audio you are listening to can be very helpful if you are just starting out, you should be aiming to decrease your reliance on them as soon as possible. By focusing on the audio alone you will see your listening skills improve at a much faster rate.

For many this task may seem daunting at first. If you don’t understand everything that’s ok, just try to get the main ‘gist’ of what is being said. Using a pen and paper to make notes of any keywords or phrases is a great way of keeping track of what is being said.

A great activity to practice your passive listening is to take a Youtube video for something very simple, for example: how to register for an Instagram account. When you have your video try watching without subtitles and seeing how much you understand, then afterwards watch it again with subtitles to fill in what you missed.

Listen in on English Conversations

Whenever you are out in public and you can hear people speaking English try to listen in and pay attention to what they are saying (discretely of course!) This may seem a bit weird but it will help your listening out immensely as you will be listening to people speaking in a more ‘natural.’

Try to listen out for any words or colloquialisms you are not familiar with. If there are not many English speakers in your area, reality tv shows are a good alternative as these feature native speakers speaking in a more colloquial way. 

I hope that you found this list helpful, by following these tips you should see your listening significantly improve!

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